Walking through Life with Grief
by Amanda Wolf
Listen to Executive Director Gabriel Nathan read this post aloud:
Prior to 2015, I was lucky enough to have never lost anyone close to me. However, in March of 2015, that changed. I met Logan when he came to my house before a fundraising event for a guy who had been in a motorcycle accident. Logan was fifteen and I was nineteen. We went to rival high schools so of course we did not get along. We only saw each other a handful of times before his accident, but he left an impression that I was unaware of at the time. When his dad called the day after his accident, my world shifted. This kid with whom I argued, laughed with, and who chose to sit at our table at his stepmom’s birthday dinner instead of his family was gone at just fifteen years old. He and two of his friends were going back home after a basketball game when their car was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Logan was killed instantly and his two friends were in critical condition. Fortunately, they both survived but not without wounds both seen and unseen. The driver was taken to the hospital and then to jail to await trail.
2016 saw months and months in and out of the courtroom waiting to learn the driver’s fate. He was eventually charged with three felonies, including causing death while operating a motor vehicle and a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to fourteen-and-a-half years in prison. Even after the hearing and his sentencing, I still found myself incredibly angry and confused.
While I was in college, I took a substance abuse class that really gave me a new, more nuanced perspective on substance abuse and addiction. The more I learned and thought about my own battle with my mental health, the less angry I became. I still do not, and will not ever, forgive that man for making the choice that he did, but I chose not to let it eat me alive anymore. My changed perspectives were not welcomed by Logan’s family and they ultimately stopped talking to me and my family because I refused to apologize for not being angry. Almost seven years later, I still think about him every day. Losing Logan gave me a whole new outlook on life. I am thankful for every day I get to wake up and take on my day. I now work in a facility that serves people in recovery. I get to know the people behind the substance and I have met some amazing people along the way. Surprisingly, Logan’s accident gave me the ability to sympathize and empathize more with people struggling with addiction. I am who I am today because of a choice someone else made.
Unfortunately, the loss of Logan proved to be just the tip of the iceberg for me in terms of my burgeoning relationship with grief and loss. During my freshman year of college, my grandpa found out that he had cancer. He did complete his treatments and, for a while, he was in remission. However, the cancer eventually returned. Since he and the rest of my mom’s side of the family lives in Florida, I did not get to see him more than once in the years leading up to his passing. He and some of my other family came up for Thanksgiving in 2015 and that was the last time I saw him. In October of 2017, I was at work one day and my mom called saying it was not good and that we had to go. My dad was very against us going and we argued about it before my mom, my brother, and I loaded up my car and drove thirteen hours to the hospital. We spent a few days in the waiting room just waiting to see what was going to happen next. After those few days I had to fly back home to go back to school and work.
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That following weekend I got the call that he had passed away. I got back on a plane and flew down to Florida. I immediately buried all of my feelings because I did not know how to cope with that kind of pain. It was the guilt that eventually got me though. The grief was one thing I could learn to live with, but I could not forgive myself for leaving. I also could not forgive myself for not going down to see him more. At his funeral, my cousins talked about all of the amazing things they did together and the advice he had given them. They had pictures with him at every stage of their lives. My aunt had to crop the family pictures from Thanksgiving 2015 just so my brother and I had ones of us with him alone.
In 2019, after two years of not addressing my emotions or my grief, I had a massive panic attack that put me in the ER. While sitting in that ER bed with heart monitors on me, I thought about how I managed to get myself in that situation. I left the hospital and texted my therapist and decided that it was finally time to face reality that I was not there and that I would never get the time back that I had lost out on with him. That was a hard pill to swallow and even now at the beginning of 2022, I still find myself fighting that guilt and anger towards myself for leaving when I did. In January of 2020, I went to Florida for the first time since his passing and fully sat in the fact that he would not be walking through the door. He would never sing to me again, I would never get to tell him I got my master’s degree, and he would not be here when any of us get married and have kids. That was the moment everything changed for me. I am not saying I have fully come to terms with my guilt and grief but I am learning to live with it.
I am proud of myself for how far I have come and for the fact that I had the strength to work through all of the feelings I had been avoiding in a healthy way. For both Logan and my grandpa, I have used music to get me through. Granted there are now songs I can no longer listen to because they are associated with pain but it is what I needed in that moment. Every concert I attend, every trip I take, every milestone I reach, and every time I laugh until I cry, I think about them. I think about what my grandpa would say to me and how we would celebrate. I think about the amazing things Logan would have done and accomplished in his life.
I think about his friends who were in the car and wonder how they are doing. I think about the driver sitting in prison thinking about his choices and how he ended up where he did, and contemplating living his life maintaining sobriety. Most of all I have hope for my own future. I want them to be looking down on me happy and content with what I am doing and the progress I am making. I want Logan and my grandfather to see me thrive and not just get by. I am walking hand in hand with my grief, but I am also making room for joy and happiness to squeeze in. While the stages of grief end, that does not mean mine ever will. I still get sad; I still get angry, but I have learned that drifting back and forth through the stages is okay, but landing and living in acceptance is always the goal.